Shoot To Thrill

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To Victor Fox, sleazeball publisher extraordinaire, no story was too violent or sensational to appear in one of his funny books. So when true crime comics came into vogue, Fox upped the ante by rushing out a publication that focused on crimes committed by women.

Not just any women, mind you. Sexy women …. whether or not that particular aspect of the story was true or false.

True to its name, Fox’s Crimes By Women featured some of the most salacious contents of the Golden Age. The cover to the third issue alone was scandalous enough to warrant mention in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent.

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Today’s post, however, comes from Crimes By Women’s second issue because the story is better drawn than most of what appeared behind the cover that outraged Wertham. Don’t worry, faithful Time Bulleteer, the tale I’ve selected is just as exploitative as you would hope.

The wonderfully titled “Jean Torson, Satan’s Daughter” originally appeared in Crimes By Women #2 (Fox, August 1948). The writer and artist are not credited.

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Bucket Of Blood

Today’s story was condemned in Frederic Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent for an admittedly lurid scene depicting two gangsters draining blood from an unconscious woman.

The good doctor opined that outside of children’s comics, the only place to read of such atrocities was the “forbidden pages of de Sade.” I wonder what he thought of the tale’s crime-fighting heroine, the Veiled Avenger, who brandished a whip.

Despite the unsettling nature of the crime depicted, the Golden Age comic seems rather tame now compared to the violence depicted in your average Geoff Johns title, especially given the fatal brand of justice dealt to the perpetrators of said crime.

As this blog has noted time and time again, Golden Age super-hero comics generally favored clear-cut – rather than Pyrrhic – victories for the forces of law and order.

From Red Seal Comics #16 (Harry A. Chesler, April 1946), here’s “The White Death.” The art is credited to Gus Ricca.

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Call Of The Wild

Charles Biro and Bob Wood rightfully deserve credit for creating – and perfecting – the crime comics format that swept through the latter half of comics’ Golden Age. Jack Cole, however, kicked the genre into another gear altogether with his contributions to Magazine Village’s True Crime Comics title.

Of all of Cole’s crime comics, “Murder, Morphine And Me” from True Crime Comics #2 is easily the best remembered thanks to Dr. Fredric Wertham (there’s that name again) and the infamous “injured eye motif” panel. That selfsame issue, though, contained other tales that were just as outrageously brilliant.

As an example, here’s Cole’s take on the legend of Sawney Bean, a mass murderer and cannibal who led a 48-member clan that reportedly terrorized Scotland in the 1500s. Cole admittedly plays fast and loose with the “facts,” but his characteristically breakneck storytelling skills and genre-bending art that somehow balances out humor and horror creates an unforgettable story that would stand out in any era of comics.

From True Crime Comics #2 (Magazine Village, May 1947), here’s Jack Cole’s “Demons Dance On Galloway Moor.”

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Seductress Of The Innocent

Meet Corliss Archer, began life as a radio program devoted to the misadventures of a typical, All-American teenage girl not unlike Betty Cooper or Patsy Walker. Unlike the other two, however, Corliss has the unique distinction of being labeled a menace by none other than Dr. Frederic Wertham himself.

Corliss’ inclusion in the good doctor’s infamous Seduction Of The Innocent didn’t stem from the character’s involvement in radio, movies and televison, but rather a short-lived comic-book published in 1948 by Fox Feature Syndicate that Wertham cited as an example of a “headlight comic.”

Based upon the covers that adorned the book’s second and third issues, I can’t imagine where in the world Wertham got that idea …

Like many of the comics published by Victor Fox in the late 1940s, the seemingly wholesome adventures of Corliss Archer snuck in as many swimsuit or bra-and-panty shots as the story would allow. Despite the characters’ popularity in other media – a fact trumpeted on the comic’s very cover, by the way – Fox knew what his audience wanted.

In a weird coincidence, the issues that so offended Wertham were mostly written and drawn by Al Feldstein, who would later cause even greater consternation among “right-thinking people” as an editor, writer and artist for William M. Gaines’ legendary EC Comics line.

The Golden Age of Comics truly existed in a small, and very strange, world.

“The Homework Hoax” originally appeared in Meet Corliss Archer #2 (Fox Feature Syndicate, May 1948). The story is signed by “EKR,” but the Grand Comics Database guesses that Feldstein provided the script.

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Although the Corliss Archer comic only lasted three issues, the radio show ran from 1943 to 1953 and inspired a syndicated television show that existed for a single season in 1954.

Demonstrating a bit of quirkiness one wouldn’t expect from such a show, the program often featured comic-book styled art to illustrate the sit-com’s predicament of the week. Since the series has fallen into the public domain, here’s a link to an episode of Meet Corliss Archer that features a quick appearance from pro wrestler Tor Johnson of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame!

Enjoy!

Jo-Jo, Exploitation King

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Like many of the characters published by the infamous Victor Fox, Jo-Jo the Congo King was a quick and cheap imitation of a better known and more successful effort – namely, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan.

Although – to the best of my knowledge – Jo-Jo never quite hit the level of media saturation achieved by Burroughs’ Ape Man, the Congo King did have Tarzan beat in one category: cheesecake.

While Tarzan did spend a lot of time cavorting with Jane Porter, the more spry Jo-Jo usually found himself battling jungle tribes populated by voluptuous women or rescuing his scantily clad mate Tanee from leering white hunters and voracious gorillas.

(It’s no accident that many of Jo-Jo’s adventures were illustrated by the likes of Matt Baker, Jack Kamen and Al Feldstein. Judging by the covers of the Fox comic, Tanee was a bigger draw for readers than the Congo King himself.)

All this naughtiness did not pass unnoticed, however. Fredric Wertham, the infamous anti-comics crusader, condemned Jo-Jo, Congo King # 15 (Fox Publications, 1948) and other funny books as “marijuana of the nursery” in an article published in the Saturday Review of Literature.

Courtesy of SeductionOfTheInnocent.org

Reading the issue in question, it’s easy to see why Wertham was so riled.

Although I doubt that Jo-Jo was read by children young enough to sleep in nurseries, it’s not necessarily an easy task to defend the content of a bottom-feeder publisher like Victor Fox. Still, despite my better judgment, I have to admit the following story is undeniably entertaining – if utterly trashy.

(Plus, believe it or not, there were publishers who were a lot worse. I’m looking at you, pre-Ditko Charlton.)

But why not judge for yourself? From the notorious 15th issue of Jo-Jo, Congo King, here’s “The Flaming Fiend.”

The writer and artist are uncredited.

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